Fat Lady Sings For Berlin Opera That Depicts Mohammed

How does the West lose the war against radical Islamists? One small surrender at a time. The lastest retreat comes from Germany’s Deutsche Oper Berlin, which cancelled a performance of a Mozart opera due to its depiction of the decapitated heads of Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed. Guess which one caused the furor (via The Moderate Voice):

The Deutsche Oper Berlin yesterday said it had decided “with great regret” to cancel a planned production of Mozart’s Idomeneo after city security officials warned of an “incalculable risk” because of scenes dealing with Islam, as well as other religions.
Kirsten Harms, the director of the Deutsche Oper, said that the Berlin state police had warned of a possible – but not certain – threat and that she decided it would be in the best interest of the safety of the opera house, its employees and patrons to cancel the production.
After its premiere in 2003, the production by Hans Neuenfels drew widespread criticism over a scene in which King Idomeneo presents the severed heads not only of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, but also of Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed.

We should note that Mozart didn’t write the scene with the decapitated heads; that is a modern adaptation, although considering the predilection of modern radical Islamists in methods of executing hostages, perhaps not an outrageous one. It should also be noted that the decision to shut down the production did not come from the German government or even the city’s leaders, but from the opera house director. In fact, the German government condemned the decision.
Nevertheless, the decision highlights the lack of fortitude and excessive sensitivity shown to Muslims, and by artists who would normally scream at any attempt by Western churches to even criticize their staging. No one suggested that showing a severed head of Jesus should get banned by the Deutsche Oper Berlin, or Buddha, or Poseidon, although one doubts many Greeks would care about the latter. Had the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury demanded that Harms shut the doors rather than show Jesus beheaded, all of Europe would have arisen in righteous indignation — and rightfully so.
So why shut the doors when Mohammed gets the Zarqawi treatment? Because Muslims kill people for this kind of speech. That’s the only reason why — and Harms’ actions only embolden them to intimidate other artists into submission.
What does this portend for European artists? Theo Van Gogh could probably explain it to you, except that a Muslim assassinated him for filming a powerful criticism of radical Islam and its treatment of women. Ayaan Hirsi Ali could also inform you, but death threats from radical Islamists have kept the screenwriter of Van Gogh’s film in hiding. Salman Rushdie has explained it many times over, but one can find him only because the Muslim death squads appear to have lost interest in collecting on Ayatollah Khomeini’s hit contract on the Muslim author and critic.
This is the slow slide into dhimmitude. Radical Islamists demand that we treat Islam and Mohammed as sacred and above criticism as part of our agreement to live under their forbearance. We comply, and we endorse their supremacy through violence and intimidation. It isn’t about sensitivity; it’s about standing up for freedom and liberty and the right to speak our minds on any topic. My cultural sensitivity ends at the point where I have to refrain from honest criticism because of a threat on my life. That kind of impulse is exactly the kind that most needs criticism, but fewer of us appear capable of resisting.
Welcome to the ummah, and I hope you brought your jizya.

The Washington Post Fact-Checks A Useless Debate

Last week I wrote about the futility of the debate about who did what regarding terrorism before 9/11. All sides have once again dragged out their shibboleths all over again, and once again the debate has done nothing to make the nation safer — but it has at least prompted a fact-checking exercise at the Washington Post. Granted, it comes at the end of the article, but at least someone bothered to do it in a rational manner:

And Jay Carson, a spokesman for Bill Clinton, rejected Rice’s contention: “Every single fact that President Clinton stated in his interview is backed up by the historical record — including the 9/11 commission report. Everything President Clinton said was flatly correct.”
Some of Clinton’s statements on Fox have drawn scrutiny. He said that after the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, “I had battle plans drawn to go into Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban and launch a full-scale attack search for bin Laden. But we needed basing rights in Uzbekistan.” The Sept. 11 commission, though, found no plans for an invasion of Afghanistan or for an operation to topple the Taliban, just more limited options such as plans for attacks with cruise missiles or Special Forces. And nothing in the panel’s report indicated that a lack of basing rights in Uzbekistan prevented a military response.
Clinton also asserted that the Bush administration “didn’t have a single meeting about bin Laden for the nine months after I left office.” In fact, the Bush team held several meetings on terrorism through the interagency group known as the deputies committee and one on Sept. 4, 2001, through the principals committee composed of Cabinet officers. What Clinton may have been referring to was counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke’s frustration that the principals disregarded his urgent calls to meet sooner because of a months-long policy review.
Rice came under fire for her assertion that “we were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaeda” by Clinton’s team. In fact, Clarke sent Rice an al-Qaeda memo on Jan. 25, 2001, along with a strategy to “roll back” the terrorist network, but the Bush team decided to conduct the policy review.

Like I said on Friday: George Bush and Bill Clinton can join a club of five administrations that failed to adequately address the rise of radical Islamism and its root causes in the Middle East and North Africa prior to 9/11. While Clinton ignored a series of attacks on American interests, so did Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. George H. W. Bush helped to provoke the Islamists by basing troops in Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War and then failing to end it quickly by toppling Saddam, forcing the US to keep its troops in the “holy land” of Islam for over a dozen years.
Nothing we have debated has changed any of these facts. Nor, I want to re-emphasize, does it change the fact that the American public would never have agreed to a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan to oust Osama bin Laden before 9/11. Most Americans didn’t realize the threat, and while one can perhaps blame the Clinton administration for that, we have since seen the lack of support an invasion attracts minus an outright attack on the United States — and Saddam Hussein had been firing at our pilots for years prior to March 2003.
Clinton overreacted, and badly, against Chris Wallace, and he told a few whoppers to get the heat off. The Post catches him today in a couple of those. Michael Scheuer, no great fan of the Bush administration, caught him in a few more. For the life of me, I don’t see why Clinton — along with everyone else — just doesn’t admit the obvious. None of them did enough to stop Osama bin Laden before 9/11, and all of them wish now that they had really understood the threat. Placing one another on some sort of hierarchy of futility to prove themselves slightly a lesser failure by comparison would be hilarious if it didn’t involves thousands of dead Americans.
We have now had a week of this debate. Does anyone feel any safer because of it?

Comment Policy Change (Updated And Bumped)

Due to some complaints I have received over the past few weeks, I am making a small change to the comment policy. Commenters will have a one-hour restriction on posts, which means that after a comment from a specific IP address gets accepted, it will take one hour before another comment from that same IP address will be accepted. I’m hoping that this will reduce some of the “comment bombing” seen recently on some threads, where one person posts three or four lengthy remarks within a few minutes of each other. Eliminating that will, I hope, make the threads easier to read and produce a better level of debate.
I hope this poses little inconvenience for CQ readers and addresses everyone’s concerns in a fair and equitable manner. We’ve got the best comment threads in the blogosphere, I think, and I want to make sure they stay that way.
UPDATE: I didn’t make this clear, but that is one hour for comments on any thread; the only way to control comments is blog-wide.
UPDATE II and BUMP: OK, I listen to my readers. One hour is too long. I’ve reduced it to 15 minutes, and I’ll just remind everyone that brevity is the soul of wit. If I start seeing “Wall-O-Comments” from some commenters, I reserve the right to either reduce or delete posts. Let’s see how the 15-minute rule works out for everyone …

Deer In The Headlights

The stories accusing George Allen of using the N-word continue to look stranger and stranger. Yesterday’s revelation that Larry Sabato, Virginia’s most well-known political scientist, joined another former Allen classmate, Christopher Taylor, in publicly accusing Allen of using the racial epithet. However, these sourcings have also begun to look rather peculiar. Now Sabato appears to be backing away from his first-person claim, telling Chris Matthews that he was relaying information from other sources and declining to identify them:

Sabato, who made his comments during an interview on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program on MSNBC, later declined to specifically identify his sources.
“My sources are former classmates who came to me with stories that matched up,” Sabato said late Monday night. “I never solicited them. They came to me during the past few months.”

Initially, Sabato’s claims suggested that Allen used the word around Sabato himself, but the two never spent any time together in college or afterwards, Allen’s campaign insisted. In fact, Sabato spent his time after college working for the Democratic Party. Now he feels perfectly comfortable confirming rumors from unidentified sources … with rumors from other unidentified sources.
Taylor, on the other hand, does insist that he heard the epithet first-hand when he visited Allen’s residence in the early 80s. He said that Allen told him that only black people ate the turtles at the pond, but used the N-word to do so. Allen’s ex-wife recalls Taylor’s visit and completely rejects his story, which seems pretty substantial coming from a former spouse:

The Allen camp released a statement from Allen’s first wife refuting Taylor’s story. Anne Waddell, who was married to Allen from 1980 to 1984, said she recalled Taylor coming to their home to buy a puppy.
“I can say with absolute certainty that his recollection that George said anything at all that could be considered racially insensitive is completely false,” she said. “He would never utter such a word.”
Waddell said, “I was the one who fished for the turtles in our pond because they were eating the young goslings. The person who ate the turtles was our neighbor.”

The Hampton Times also notes that Taylor also is a political activist who wants to see Allen defeated.
The original source, Ken Shelton, also claimed that Allen put a deer head into the mailbox of Virginia African-Americans while in college, a story repeated by The New Republic’s Ryan Lizza in an article helpfully titled “Pond Scum”. That sounds like such an outlandish story that one would have difficulty believing that someone could make it up. Fortunately, there was no need to do so. Earlier this year, a North Carolina teenager put deer parts in mailboxes in Hoke County, a story which got good regional coverage:

Every day in the past, Evelyn Matthews has gone outside her home to get her mail, hoping for something good. But when she opened the mailbox and peeked inside one day this week, something else peeked out back at her. She was standing face to face with a deer head.
“It was scary,” said Matthews. “When you see two eyes looking at you, it’s really frightening.”
She ran for help and warned her neighbors — and for good reason. They found deer parts in their mailbox.

Either this is quite the coincidence, or dismembering deers and mailing them to neighbors has the same allure in the South as cow-tipping does here in the Midwest. It certainly sounds like Shelton might have lifted this story and attributed it to Allen as a means of strengthening his allegations against the Senator.
One thing is certain: the only first-hand sources that have gone on the record have political axes to grind against Allen and their stories have fallen apart under close scrutiny. It’s a smear campaign, a character assassination in slow motion, and one that should shame James Webb and his campaign. They have yet to distance themselves from these attacks, and one has to conclude that they have no desire to do so.
UPDATE: People in the comments claim that Sabato didn’t make any first-person claims about Allen’s use of the epithet. Not true:

“I’m simply going to stay with what I know is the case and the fact is he did use the n-word, whether he’s denying it or not,” Sabato said.

Also, as has been pointed out in numerous other places, Sabato moderated a debate between Allen and Democratic candidate Charles Robb in 2000. Why didn’t Sabato mention this issue during the debate, or indeed in the entire 2000 campaign?

Pam Wolf For State Senate

I will be spending the evening supporting Pam Wolf for the Minnesota State Senate. The event starts at 7 pm at Blainbrook Hall, 12000 Highway 65, in Blaine, where I will be joined by David Strom from the Taxpayer’s Leage of Minnesota, one of my good friends. Pam’s a terrific candidate and a fine Minnesotan, a teacher who wants to teach a little fiscal discipline to the politicians in Saint Paul.
I was supposed to spend an afternoon golfing at a fundraiser this summer — and if you’ve ever seen me play, you know it would take all afternoon and most of the evening. Unfortunately, my back injury prevented me from joining Pam like I did in 2004, but it also prevented me from demonstrating why a small ball can ruin a day at the park. I swapped that appearance with tonight’s, so I hope you can join us to support a great candidate on her second (and triumphal) effort at representing SD-51. If not, please go to Pam’s website and give a donation for her campaign.

Rice Strikes Back

Condoleezza Rice stepped out of character for just a moment yesterday and responded forcefully to allegations Bill Clinton made during his Fox News Sunday interview with Chris Wallace. The New York Post reports that the Secretary of State allowed herself a rare moment of anger when defending herself against Clinton’s attacks on the Bush administration:

Rice hammered Clinton, who leveled his charges in a contentious weekend interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel, for his claims that the Bush administration “did not try” to kill Osama bin Laden in the eight months they controlled the White House before the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn’t do that is just flatly false – and I think the 9/11 commission understood that,” Rice said during a wide-ranging meeting with Post editors and reporters.
“What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years,” Rice added.
The secretary of state also sharply disputed Clinton’s claim that he “left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy” for the incoming Bush team during the presidential transition in 2001.
“We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda,” Rice responded during the hourlong session.

Read the entire piece. I offer it not to get involved in the partisan ping-pong battle in the blogosphere, but in order to point out that Rice’s appearance seems more political than anything she’s done since her latest confirmation hearing. She has tried to remain outside the realm of partisan politics since that appearance in Congress, and to a large extent she’s succeeded. Her focus has even quieted down the Draft Condi movement for 2008 that sprang up after Bush won re-election. No one has talked about Cheney resigning in favor of Rice in months — thankfully.
That may change for a while, perhaps in conjunction with the midterms. While that rumor deserves to die a short but painful death, the brief emergence of Rice as a political player may get some Republicans thinking about a VP slot for her in 2008.

The Secret Suspenders

Iran has agreed in principle to suspend its uranium-enrichment program while negotiating with the West over the future of their nuclear program, but there’s a new catch. According to the Washington Times, Iran has insisted that the suspension be kept secret:

Iran is close to an agreement that would include a suspension of uranium enrichment but wants the deal to include a provision that the temporary halt be kept secret, according to Bush administration officials. …
Many U.S. officials are opposing the agreement as a further concession to Iran, which continues to defy a United Nations’ call for a complete halt to uranium enrichment. A Security Council resolution had given Iran until Aug. 31 to stop its enrichment program or face the imposition of international sanctions. Tehran ignored the deadline, but diplomacy has continued.
Some in the State Department are supporting the deal, which they view as a step toward achieving a complete halt to uranium enrichment.
However, other officials said that keeping any suspension secret would be difficult and that it would drag the United States into further negotiations with Iran.

Is this the Animal House suspension? Did Dean Wormer advise Ali Larijani to put their uranium-enrichment program on double secret suspension? If a uranium-enrichment program freezes in a forest and no one is around to see it, does it make a noise later when strapped to a Shahab-3 missile?
Bill Gertz reports that the Iranians want to save a little face if they have to back down from their loudly-stated “no freeze” position, especially at home. It makes sense to give them a face-saving way out — if that includes verification. Without verification, the secrecy turns into nothing more than a convenient way to claim that further enrichment didn’t violate any agreements.
Assuming we can verify the suspension of enrichment for negotiations, whether we accept this condition depends in large part what we hope to gain from the talks. Do we want to simply have Iran give up its ambitions for nuclear weapons? If so, then we should allow them out of their political corner at home to give them the freedom to make a deal to verifiably end their pursuit of the bomb. If we want to hold Iran up as an example to future proliferators, then this becomes much more difficult, as we will have set a precedent (in public, at least) for continued enrichment activities as a bargaining chip and pressure point for negotiations.
If we believe that Iran will continue to pursue the bomb regardless of the outcome of negotiations, then we should pass on the Dean Wormer approach. They entered into the non-proliferation treaty in public; they deceived the IAEA and violated the NPT; they have made repeated public statements about their desire to wipe Israel off the map. A request for secrecy at this point seems out of order, to say the least.

Time To Release The NIE

The National Intelligence Estimate leak to the New York Times has given the Democrats yet another election-time club with which to beat Republicans, the Washington Post reports. The selective quotes have made their way into campaign speeches criticizing the Iraq War, and they hope to use them to maximum effect in their fading hopes of capturing either chamber of Congress:

A classified National Intelligence Estimate, completed in April but disclosed in news reports over the weekend, offers the U.S. intelligence community’s first formal evaluation of global trends in terrorism since the April 2003 invasion of Iraq. U.S. officials said the report concludes that the Iraq war has fueled the growth of Islamic extremism and terror groups, but White House officials responded that the reports reflected a selective and distorted interpretation of the study.
Democratic lawmakers said the NIE finding undermines Bush’s frequent claim that the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government has made the world more secure and confirms the need for a major change in strategy in Iraq. The findings were featured prominently at a hearing Senate Democrats held yesterday to review the conduct of the war and were cited by several retired generals offering harsh critiques of the administration’s preparation for the Iraq war.
“The report underscores that the longer Bush and his enablers . . . keep us in Iraq, the more we undermine our own security,” said Democrat Paul Hodes, who is seeking to oust incumbent Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.).

However, the usefulness of the report will only last as long as the larger context of the report remains hidden from the public. Already we have seen pushback from members of the intelligence community that object to the lack of that context in the New York Times. Spook86 at In From The Cold, a blogger and former intel worker with ties to the community, posted more quotes from the NIE that cast the report into a different light:

Or how about this statement, which–in part–reflects the impact of increased pressure on the terrorists: “A large body of reporting indicates that people identifying themselves as jihadists is increasing…however, they are largely decentralized, lack a coherent strategy and are becoming more diffuse.” Hmm…doesn’t sound much like Al Qaida’s pre-9-11 game plan.
The report also notes the importance of the War in Iraq as a make or break point for the terrorists: “Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves to have failed, we judge that fewer will carry on the fight.” It’s called a ripple effect.
More support for the defeating the enemy on his home turf: “Threats to the U.S. are intrinsically linked to U.S. success or failure in Iraq.” President Bush and senior administration officials have made this argument many times–and it’s been consistently dismissed by the “experts” at the WaPo and Times.
And, some indication that the “growing” jihad may be pursuing the wrong course: “There is evidence that violent tactics are backfiring…their greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution (shar’a law) is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims.” Seems to contradict MSM accounts of a jihadist tsunami with ever-increasing support in the global Islamic community..
The estimate also affirms the wisdom of sowing democracy in the Middle East: “Progress toward pluralism and more responsive political systems in the Muslim world will eliminate many of the grievances jihadists exploit.” As I recall, this the core of our strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obviously, the Times has not played this straight. They have taken selected quotes from the NIE to build a political case against the war. Spook86 may have done the same for the other side, but then again, Spook86 does not pretend to be objectively reporting the facts. Clearly the report has more nuance than the Times presentation indicated.
The only solution to the problem is to declassify the NIE after redacting information about sources and methodology. We need to know the full context of all these remarks in order to know and understand the real conclusions of the intelligence community, not just a handful of disgruntled bureaucrats with Bill Keller on their speed-dial. Let’s see the entire report and then debate its contents. Democrats and Republicans should both call for that kind of openness.
Otherwise, just remember that the use of selective quotes from a classified document really tells us almost nothing about the document itself or the war on terror in general. Even those quotes which the Times reported and Democratic politicians heft onto the hustings mean little, as I explained over the weekend; no one should be surprised that Islamists fight back when challenged. It’s more than we can expect from the Times, which uses its reach to report on only one side of an issue, apparently afraid to reveal anything in a classified document that might undermine its opposition to the Iraq War.

Taliban Assassinates Womens-Rights Campaigner

Taliban assassins shot and killed one of Afghanistan’s leading reformers for womens’ rights , Safia Ama Jan. It isn’t as if Jan was sunbathing at the time, either — they shot her through her burka on her way to her job as Kandahar’s Womens’ Affairs director:

Suspected Taliban gunmen shot dead a leading women’s rights campaigner in Kandahar yesterday in the latest assassination of a government official in the restive southern provinces.
Women’s Affairs director, Safia Ama Jan, was killed on the city outskirts as she left for work yesterday morning. The assailants shot her four times in the head, through a burka, before fleeing.
Ms Ama Jan, 56, has been an advocate for women’s rights in Kandahar, the former Taliban headquarters, since the fundamentalists were ousted five years ago. Her murder appeared to mark a return to a strategy of intimidation and assassination after the defeat of Taliban fighters at the hands of a Nato force in western Kandahar this month.
Relatives described Ms Ama Jan as religious and a champion of women’s education for more than three decades. She stayed in Afghanistan under the Taliban to give secret classes to local girls at home.

I doubt you will read much more today in the media about Jan’s murder. The American press doesn’t discuss Afghanistan much anymore anyway, except to report bad news in the border regions. The Guardian reminds us that the Taliban pretty much shot its load as a military force and now have to return to their roots as assassins to influence events in Afghanistan.
Jan reveals the Taliban and their Islamist ilk for the cowards and oppressors they are. She did not enter beauty contests or convert to Christianity, two of the myriad reasons why the Taliban might choose to kill a woman. Jan even wore the burqa even after the Taliban fled from power. She modeled Muslim modesty and lived her life in a devout manner — but she refused to allow her fellow Afghani women to live in the darkness of ignorance. She dared to educate girls instead of leaving them as chattel to be bartered by Islamist men for their own purposes.
For these modest goals, the Taliban sentenced Jan to death. The radical Islamists fear freedom and education, especially when it comes to women in Islamic society. They are, in fact, cowards of the worst order, and their entire philosophy is based on that cowardice. They must win through intimidation, because radical Islam will never win through free choice. It will never live peacefully with other forms of government, Muslim or not, and it must be confronted and beaten wherever it raises its head.

Brits Take Out Osama Protege

Omar al-Farouq had quite an adventurous career as an al-Qaeda terrorist. He had joined AQ in the heady days of the early 1990s, training in Aghanistan and eventually rising in the organization until Osama bin Laden handpicked him to run the AQ network in Southeast Asia. Captured by the Americans in 2002, he escaped last year and fulfilled American expectations by running to Iraq. The adventure came to an end yesterday in Basra:

BRITISH troops shot dead one of al-Qaeda’s most elusive fugitives yesterday after his extraordinary flight from a US prison in Afghanistan to a luxury villa in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
Omar al-Farouk, 35, was handpicked by Osama bin Laden to run al-Qaeda’s network in South-East Asia and was captured in June 2002, weeks before he allegedly planned to bomb eight American embassies across the region.
The Kuwaiti-born terror suspect was groomed at an Afghan camp and sent to Indonesia, where he was arrested while hiding in a mosque. Al-Farouk was flown to one of America’s most secure detention centres at Bagram airbase on the outskirts of Kabul. But he and three fellow al-Qaeda suspects picked the locks and escaped across a minefield in July last year.
He later appeared on an Arab television channel taunting his US captors and vowing to carry out terror attacks in America. Major Charlie Burbridge, a British military spokesman, told The Times that the military had spent several days planning the raid after a tip-off from US Intelligence last week that al-Farouk was in Iraq.

I guess Farouk will never get that opportunity to kill Americans, thanks to the British. US intelligence services coordinated with the large unit of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment — 250 troops — to surround the villa in which Farouk secreted himself. They tried to arrest him, but Farouk opened fire on the Brits, a rather suicidal move on his part.
Not that we lost much of an intel opportunity, as it turns out. Farouk had no trappings of an active terrorist; he left behind no al-Qaeda literature, nor any weapons or organizing material. For the man who once planned a coordinated attack on American embassies to “celebrate” the first anniversary of 9/11, his world ended with a bang that seems much more like a whimper.
However, the death of Farouk in Basra points up another problem, according to the Times of London. AQ terrorists have begun transiting out of Afghanistan and into Iraq, presumably to escape the troubles along the Afghan/Pakistan border. Two intelligence sources in the region told CBS that AQ has decided to “scale down” its leadership structure in their former home. Whether they intend on staying in Iraq hasn’t been determined, but Basra seems a strange destination for AQ. The Wahhabist terrorists would hardly blend into the Shi’ite region; Farouk managed to find one of the areas where the Shi’ite militias rarely patrol.
If they try getting into the Anbar region or Baghdad, they may prove once again that the fight against terrorism in the region has centered on Iraq. The AQ move may be intended on ensuring that the terrorists do not allow the Americans to succeed in the theater.